Skip to content

MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 1-2 D.C. United

Jul 5, 2014, 10:26 PM EDT

One game, 100 words (or less):  Toronto is typically thought of as a defense-first team, but in the second half on Saturday at BMO Field, the defense was the first to let the Reds down. Thanks to three key Toronto errors over the game’s final 36 minutes (see below), D.C. United was able to snap TFC’s six-match unbeaten run, taking three points in Michael Bradley‘s return with a 2-1 win in Ontario.

Three moments that mattered:

1. 54′ – Too easy for Nick DeLeon - Toronto’s defense breaks down after Luis Silva and DeLeon force a turnover high on D.C.’s right flank, sending DeLeon in on the Reds’ defense. Cutting around two sprawling TFC defenders, DeLeon punches a left-footed shot past Joe Bendik, turing one moment of uncertainty between Justin Morrow and Nick Hagglund into the match’s first goal.

source: Getty Images

Perry Kitchen’s second half header helped vault D.C. United back to the top of the Eastern Conference. (Photo: Getty Images)

2. 69′ – Caldwell misjudges the corner - TFC responded quickly, with Jermain Defoe setting up Jackson for a shot that turned into Luke Moore’s equalizing goal, but another defensive error provided the match’s decisive moment. On a Silva corner from the right, Steven Caldwell misjudged the flight of the ball, jumping under the cross to the benefit of Perry Kitchen. The D.C. midfielder headed home his second goal of the year to make it 2-1.

3. 88′ – Nick Hagglund’s sent off - Toronto had occasionally threatened for an equalizer over the previous 19 minutes and would do so again through Daniel Lovitz in stoppage time. By then, the team was dealing with a man disadvantage thanks to another Hagglund error. Capping off his most-trying night as a pro, the rookie let Eddie Johnson get behind him in the closing moments, allowing the D.C. forward to have a clear path toward goal. Instead of get into a footrace, Hagglund pulled at “E.J.” from behind, denying him an obvious goal scoring opportunity. Though David Gantar initially showed yellow, a consultation with assistant Gianni Facchini produced a change of heart. Hagglund was sent off.

Three lessons going forward:

1. The Michael Bradley paradox - Toronto went 3-0-3 in six games without their star midfielder/ The first game he returns, they lose at home. Something must be up, right? Of course, there is, but what you conclude will depend on how you look at today’s game.

Despite losing, Toronto out-shot D.C. 19-7 and put six shots on target to United’s two. That’s right – D.C.’s only two attempts on goal came off the errors that produced their goals.

If that’s a Michael Bradley issue, the causation’s escaping me. Maybe the teams’ intensity diminishes when its midfield general returns. If so, why is Toronto tuning out with Bradley on the field but seems to hold no such awe of Jermain Defoe?

This just looks like one of those days that happens occasionally in a 34-game season.

2. It’s D.C.’s formula, though – For United, however, these types of games seem to be happening too often. Despite returning to the top of the Eastern Conference, D.C.’s only averaging 11.6 shots per game, 16th in the league. They’re conceding only slightly more (12.2), but that’s not a disparity you’d associate with a first place team. Usually better teams create more shots, allow fewer.

Usually. There are cases where teams actually (if only implicitly) play to those numbers. Most teams want to win the chances battle, but some don’t care as much. They’re willing to create more chances as long as theirs are better quality-wise, de-prioritizing the chance-battle relative to other teams.

That’s D.C. United. They don’t take too many risks. They wait for you to make mistakes, and while that occasionally leaves them playing on the back foot, it also allows them to limit the danger of the shots they give up.

At the same time, they remain ready to take advantage of their opponents errors. When a team’s defenders play around with the ball, allow D.C. to create a turnover and give the Black and Red a second half lead, their tactics leave them better equipped to see out a result.

In that way, the team’s become a type of smash-and-grab expert. How long it will last remains to be seen, but we’re far beyond expecting an outright collapse for D.C. United.

3. Is Steve Birnbaum playing his way into the job? – Jeff Parke hasn’t been great this season. Neither has Bobby Boswell for that matter. Both players have been fine, but neither are so good that they should take time away from a highly regarded rookie who’s proven he can keep up.

The question is whether Steve Birnbaum has done that. Filling in for Parke, the 2014 SuperDraft’s number two pick has four good starts over the last month. D.C.’s only giving up one goal-per-game while claiming seven points. Along the way, Birnbaum’s been solid.

At what point does Ben Olsen give the kid the spot? Probably when he’s convinced he’s better than Parke, and given the D.C. boss sees the players in practice, he knows a lot more about each one. Maybe Parke is just better right now. Or, maybe the team’s going to sign Oguchi Onyewu. Who knows?

At some point, though, Birnbaum may provide enough proof that he’s ready to start. Four games isn’t enough, but is five? Six? Regardless, the rookie starting to make his claim.

Where this leaves them:

  • Toronto remains in fourth in the East, seven points behind D.C., though they maintain three games in hand.
  • With the victory, D.C. United’s back on top of the conference, their 28 points leaving them three points clear of Sporting Kansas City.

Latest Posts
  1. PST’s Major League Soccer Power Rankings – The Benefit of Mid-Week Edition

    Aug 22, 2014, 2:13 AM EDT

    joao_plata AP

    LA’s loss is RSL’s gain at the top of our pecking order.

  2. Torres in, Hernández and Jiménez out for Mexico matches against Chile, Bolivia

    Aug 21, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 3: Erick Torres #9 of Chivas USA celebrates after scoring a goal against the Houston Dynamo on May 3, 2014 at StubHub Center in Los Angeles, California. Getty Images

    “Cubo” gets his first call from Miguel Herrera, while two established names stay in Europe.

  3. WATCH: Roberto Martínez talks Arsenal challenge, Ross Barkley injury

    Aug 21, 2014, 10:16 PM EDT

    Martinez AP

    Everton will get answers this weekend against Arsenal, while it’s still too soon to tell when Barkley will return.

  4. Vancouver sends Nigel Reo-Coker to Chivas USA for Mauro Rosales

    Aug 21, 2014, 9:26 PM EDT

    mauro_rosales Getty Images

    Something for nothing? Vancouver swaps a spare part for one of the league’s more prolific assist men.

  5. Howard and Donovan comparisons can only go so far

    Aug 21, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT

    United States v Canada Getty Images

    They’re both stars, both taking elective leave from their national team. That’s where the similarities end between Donovan and Howard.

  6. Howard’s international sabbatical means opportunity for Guzan, Johnson and Hamid

    Aug 21, 2014, 5:22 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-EVERTON-NEWCASTLE Getty Images

    A new starter will have his chance to stake his claim, while another player will get more looks in camp with the third keeper’s role.

  7. Tim Howard taking a break from U.S. international duty

    Aug 21, 2014, 4:09 PM EDT

    Brazil Soccer WCup US Germany AP

    The 35-year-old is taking a step back, making himself unavailable for selection until Sept. 2015.

  8. LMA describe Malkay Mackay texts as ‘banter’ as online apology issued

    Aug 21, 2014, 3:19 PM EDT

    Cardiff City v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    LMA statement: “These were two text messages sent in private at a time Malky felt under great pressure and when he was letting off steam to a friend during some friendly text message banter.”

  9. Queens Park Rangers sign Chilean international Eduardo Vargas on loan

    Aug 21, 2014, 2:40 PM EDT

    SSC Napoli v PAOK - Preseason Friendly Getty Images

    Exciting attacker arrives at Loftus Road for the 2014-15 season.

  10. Luis Suarez not included in Uruguay’s squad for upcoming friendlies

    Aug 21, 2014, 1:51 PM EDT

    Uruguay's Luis Suarez kicks the ball during the group D World Cup soccer match against Italy at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, Tuesday, June 24, 2014. Uruguay defeated Italy 1-0. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan) AP

    Despite being eligible to play for his country, Suarez left off Uruguay’s roster.

  11. Sami Khedira rejects new contract at Real Madrid, alerts Arsenal, Chelsea

    Aug 21, 2014, 12:44 PM EDT

    sami_khedira Getty Images

    Khedira turns down new deal at Real. Will the Spaniards cash in on him now?

  12. Report: Xabi Alonso heading to Manchester United

    Aug 21, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    Spain v France - UEFA EURO 2012 Quarter Final Getty Images

    Former Liverpool star could be heading to United as Real Madrid seek to trim squad.

  13. Tottenham eye Champions League spot via Europa League title

    Aug 21, 2014, 11:16 AM EDT

    Mauricio Pochettino AP

    Spurs boss in dramatic U-turn on Europa League after previously dismissing tournament.

  14. Influential CEO Tim Leiweke to leave Toronto FC, MLSE

    Aug 21, 2014, 10:46 AM EDT

    Tim Leiweke, seen here at the announcement of the NBA's 2015 All-Star Game in Toronto, has taken two steps toward reversing the exodus out of BMO Field. (Source: AP.) AP

    Leiweke to leave MLSE, as leading sports executive calls it quits in Toronto.

  15. VIDEO: Watch LA Galaxy launch astonishing comeback, beat Colorado 4-3

    Aug 21, 2014, 10:05 AM EDT

    landon_donovan Getty Images

    After trailing 3-1, LA came roaring back to win 4-3 as Donovan bagged the winner.

  16. Angel Di Maria wants to leave Real Madrid, rejects new contract

    Aug 21, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

    angel_di_maria Getty Images

    Di Maria wants out of Real, will Manchester United be able to pounce for his signature?

  17. Crystal Palace’s Sporting Director Iain Moody resigns after text scandal

    Aug 21, 2014, 8:54 AM EDT

    West Ham United v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    Moody, pictured center, has resigned from his role at Palace following damaging allegations.

  18. Mario Balotelli edging closer to shock $26 million Liverpool switch

    Aug 21, 2014, 8:20 AM EDT

    Balotelli Getty Images

    Liverpool, AC Milan agree Balotelli transfer as player, agent set to arrive at Anfield.

  19. Thursday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Tiote to Arsenal, Destro to Chelsea

    Aug 21, 2014, 7:30 AM EDT

    Italy Soccer Serie A AP

    Monster moves rumored. Check out all the latest gossip, right here.

  20. Angel Di Maria gets love from Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Diego Simeone

    Aug 20, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT

    Portugal Soccer Champions League Final AP

    Both Ronaldo and Ramos have gone to Madrid president Florentino Perez to ask him to keep Di Maria.

Featured video

Top five PL goals, Week 1